Poshan Abhiyan scheme lags behind its target

The focus of the scheme was to reduce stunting in children aged between 0 and 6 years from 38.4 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022; but recent study says stunting in children under 5 is 35.90 per cent

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Friday 24 May 2019
Representative Photo: Getty Images

Lok Sabha election results show that Narendra Modi has got a second term as the Prime Minister. Over the last five years he had announced various schemes, including the Poshan Abhiyaan — launched in 2017-18.

The focus of the scheme was to reduce stunting in children aged between 0 and 6 years from 38.4 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022.

However, a recent study led by Akshay Swaminathan, from the Department of Statistics, Harvard University, titled ‘On Burden of child malnutrition in India-a view from parliamentary constituencies’, states that currently, the stunting in children under 5 is 35.90 per cent.

This clearly shows that the aim of Poshan Abhiyaan is yet to be met, and there are only two more years to achieve the same. The government should now seriously deliberate on the focus areas as some states are doing extremely well while others are not.

Way forward

One of the most important challenges for the policy makers is malnutrition. The study has established how Members of Parliament (MPs) are directly responsible for the implementation of schemes at the ground level and how they underplay funds allocated for the same under the MP Local Area Development Scheme.

This misuse of funds has been one of the factors which brought out differences between states and, sometimes, within states. Across parliamentary constituencies (PCs), stunting ranged from 13.7 to 61.7 per cent, underweight ranged from 10.5 to 60.9 per cent, wasting ranged from 7.3 to 40.6 per cent, and anaemia ranged from 19.5 to 83.0 per cent. The study covers all 543 constituencies.  

Further, household poverty levels are a prominent factor for prevalence of malnutrition in certain states. “For example, household poverty has been shown to be a significant risk factor for stunting, wasting and underweight in India. In certain PCs a large proportion of poor households may be present which could have also reflected on high prevalence of child malnutrition,” states the study.

It highlights intra-state variation — for example Karnataka, Odisha and Maharashtra have PCs in the top two (regions doing extremely well) and bottom two (regions which performing poorly) across various indicators.

"Indeed, further research is required to determine the exact mechanism for intrastate malnutrition variation across PCs. To avoid this, the government has to focus on a prior multilevel analysis of household poverty and health spending at the local level.”

The government should be more vigilant about the responsibilities given to MPs in case of implementation and which PCs need more focus. The study analysis should be considered by policymakers and government officials to achieve the goals set under the Poshan Abhiyaan.

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